While most of the country is bracing for the slight relief that a Level 4 nationwide lockdown poses, some parts could remain on Level 5 – including the largest metro in KwaZulu-Natal.
This was reiterated by Premier Sihle Zikalala over the weekend when he said eThekwini, the hub of the East Coast, might still languish on Level 5, pending final decisions.
“Even during Level 4, the risk is still too high. As things stand, it looks like eThekwini will remain at a higher level of lockdown than other areas,” he added.
The national government is due to finalise and gazette the Level 4 lockdown rules sometime this week. The provinces, however, must then decide on certain levels for hot spot areas in relation to these.
The answers could well be in the numbers and the ever-increasing Covid-19 cases discovered daily in the Durban area.
There is still a trend of daily new cases out of the metro, which have not gone below 10 cases per day, while there has not been a single day of no new reported cases in the metro compared to other districts in the province.
While the KZN government still fails to put out district numbers, unlike Gauteng and the Western Cape, Zikalala has indicated a spike in growing cases on the north coast’s iLembe District, which is home to a large rural community, as well as economic hubs such as Ballito.
Until last Thursday, KZN had the highest number of deaths in the country before the Western Cape overtook it.
Zikalala said they suspect there might be a problem with the management of these cases, particularly at private hospitals.
“We have therefore instituted an investigation through the Department of Health. This investigation must tell us whether the reason for this is due to medical reasons or negligence.”
Of the 4 793 cases in the country, 902 come from KZN whose epicentre is the eThekwini metro.
The number of deaths in KZN sits at 30 as of Tuesday.
The province has also ramped up testing which will be an ongoing process. This following a high death and infection rate, particularly with local transmission.
Teams have been redeployed from districts that currently have low infection rates to those with high ones, such as eThekwini and iLembe.
The department has brought mobile testing units to eThekwini to assist with fast-tracking the testing programme. The University of KwaZulu-Natal has offered to include its post-graduate students to boost capacity.
To date, the province has screened over a million people and tested over 11 400, meaning while progress was made, there was some ways to go with more than 10 million people living in KZN.
The KZN government has also acknowledged the high number of laboratory confirmed Covid-19 cases involving healthcare workers, which was a staggering 121.
This number has grown from 108 last week.
Over the weekend, Zikalala admitted healthcare workers required more attention.
“It would appear that we probably need to further capacitate our healthcare workers in the correct use of personal protective equipment.”
Since the intensification of the lockdown last week, KZN police made 1 182 arrests related to the breaking of Covid-19 regulations.
This included the smuggling of illegal contraband through funeral services. The police recently stopped a car used as a funeral parlour service vehicle only to find 80kg of dagga in it.
Over the weekend in Underberg, the police confiscated liquor from a car belonging to a funeral service.
The national government is due to finalise and gazette Level 4 lockdown measures this week. The provincial measures, however, will be finalised by their respective provinces in relation to the national directives.
One prominent analyst has warned against keeping the metro at a stricter level.
Further extension of a Level 5 lockdown in major cities, including eThekwini, would damage the economy more than it had already suffered, said Daniel Silke on Tuesday.
“Any extension to the Level 5 lockdown will simply further damage what is left of the economy. The effects of the lockdown are devastating on South Africans, particularly the informal economy and those who are vulnerable, including the destitute and homeless.”
Silke said while it was good premiers were given the authority to make decisions for their provinces, an extension of the lockdown was not advised.
“A further extension on lockdown will create additional tensions and social unease in a particular municipality or province should it be applied.”
He added there could be frustration when people witnessed the easing of the lockdown in other areas.
Silke said “it would be devastating for the country, under any condition, if it goes back to Level 5”.
“I think the psychological impact and the confidence impact would take a major knock if one had to regress backward.”
He added from an economic point of view, the country was in deep stress.
“Level 4 will take some South Africans back to work and secure some jobs in the short term, but if we revert [to level 5] it will have a severe financial and psychological impact on people.”